Gonzaga Bulldogs (12-3 SU, 6-5-1 ATS) vs. St. Mary’s Gaels (15-2 SU, 13-3 ATS), 11:00 p.m. EST, Thursday, January 14, 2009, McKeon Pavilion, Moraga, Cal. TV: ESPN2
by Ryno of Predictem.com
Point Spread: Gonzaga +3.5/St. Mary’s -3.5
For those on the East Coast staying up late on Thursday night or those living on the West Coast, one of the best college basketball rivalries to emerge over the past few years will take place between the Gonzaga Bulldogs and St. Mary’s Gaels at McKeon Pavilion.
Both of these teams have ruled the West Coast Conference over the past decade and it’s no different this year. Gonzaga has another extremely talented squad this season, despite losing a ton of talent from last year, and is ranked No. 17 in the country. St. Mary’s is 15-2 and unranked but will likely be ranked with a win in this game.
Gonzaga has played a very difficult schedule this season and has a done nice job surviving it. The Zags have nice wins over Colorado, Wisconsin, Cincinnati, Washington State, Oklahoma, Illinois and Portland. Their three losses have come at Michigan State by four points, at home to Wake Forest by two in a game that the Zags blew a large lead, and by 35 to Duke at Madison Square Garden in an embarrassing effort, 76-41.
But Gonzaga has won four straight since the loss to Duke, including the last three coming over Oklahoma, Illinois and Portland, the last two of which were on the road. The win over Illinois was by two points after being down by 21 points in the first half. In the 81-78 win at Portland on Saturday, the Zags had complete control of the game in the final minutes before some 3-pointers by the Pilots made it a bit too close for Mark Few. Gonzaga shot 49 percent from the field and only committed seven turnovers. Matt Bouldin played all 40 minutes and had a team-high 20 points, nine turnovers and zero assists. Elias Harris added 18 points and seven rebounds.
St. Mary’s hasn’t played nearly the schedule that Gonzaga has played thus far, but the Gaels do have a 15-2 record. Their two losses have come at by two points to Vanderbilt and on a neutral court by 11 points to USC. The Gaels’ best wins have come over Utah State, Oregon and Northeastern, so this game is easily their toughest game yet. The Gaels have won five games in a row since their loss to USC. Their last game was an 80-72 win at Santa Clara on Sunday. Omar Samhan dominated down low with 24 points, nine rebounds and three blocks.
The Gaels’ biggest strengths are in the 3-point shooting department. They are shooting 41.6 percent from beyond the arc and holding opponents to just 25.6 percent. They are shooting 49 percent from the field overall. Both teams are about even in turnover differential and are out-rebounding their opponents by about five boards per game. Gonzaga is making 37.6 percent of its 3-point attempts and holding opponents to 31.6 percent. The Zags are shooting 48.5 percent from the field and their opponents are shooting 40.5 percent, while the Gaels’ opponents are shooting 42.3 percent from the field.
Gonzaga is 4-0 ATS in its last four games, 4-1 ATS in its last four games following an ATS win, 4-1 ATS in its last five road games, and 4-1 ATS in its last five games as an underdog. St. Mary’s is the best ATS team in all of college basketball this season at 13-3. The Gaels are 21-8 ATS in their last 29 home games and 20-8 ATS in their last 28 games as a home favorite. The home team is 6-1 ATS in the last seven meetings between these teams, and Gonzaga is 1-4 ATS in its last five games at St. Mary’s. The over is 4-1 in the last five games between these teams at St. Mary’s.
Ryno’s Pick: This is an intense rivalry that both teams desperately want to win. Last time they met was in the WCC tournament in March when Gonzaga blew out the Gaels, 83-58. But there are a lot of new players this time around on both teams. McKeon Pavilion will be rocking as usual for this game. The Gaels need to win this one more than Gonzaga because they’ve played such a weak schedule and don’t have a signature win. At home, they absolutely can’t afford to lose this game. The home team has controlled this rivalry lately and it will continue on Thursday. Take St. Mary’s -3.5.